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Las Cafeteras: Crossing Genres to Become Agents of Change

Las Cafeteras | Photo: Piero F. Giunti.
Las Cafeteras | Photo: Piero F. Giunti.

 

By Pilar Tompkins Rivas

In July 2006, the South Central Farm, a thriving urban farm and community garden in the industrial corridor along South Alameda, was bulldozed as its farmers and supporters staged protests and acts of civil disobedience in efforts to save the land from being razed. The events that summer came after a two-year battle that included closed-door negotiations over the land between the City of Los Angeles and the representative of a private investment firm, a subsequent legal face-off between the investor and the newly organized farmers, and a public awareness campaign rooted in immigrant rights, urban land use, sustainable living and class warfare.

As organizers and activists held watch over the farm leading up to the forced evacuation, dance and music factored heavily into their activities and actions. Hip Hop and spoken word met Danza Azteca and the Mexican folk music genre Son Jarocho, hailing from the gulf-coastal state of Veracruz. Not only did Zack de la Rocha from Rage Against the Machine perform there with Son de Madera, a prominent Son Jarocho group from Mexico, but young activists also began to pick up and explore these cultural forms within the context of a movement of resistance, an effort to empower disenfranchised groups, and the concerted steps of community building.

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